April 12, 2021

This Week's NBA Power Rankings

Every week, Lines will bring you a fresh batch of NBA power rankings. Which teams are on the rise? Which teams are slipping? Find out now. 

Power Rankings as of April 12.

1. Utah Jazz (40-13)

Previous Rank: 1

The Jazz have kept rolling, thanks largely to the brilliance of Donovan Mitchell, who is starting to turn in playoff-level performances virtually every night.

Over his last 10 games, Mitchell is pouring in 28.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists on excellent shooting splits.

This year's Jazz have been compared to the 2015 Hawks, a unit whose collective brilliance far outweighed its individual parts. The biggest difference? That Hawks squad had no one near as talented as Mitchell.

2. Phoenix Suns (37-15)

Previous Rank: 3

Over their past five games, the Suns have a 122 offensive rating, which would be the highest in the history of the league. Their starting lineup, which features two brilliant guards in Chris Paul and Devin Booker, two versatile wings in Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder and one mammoth center in Deandre Ayton, has obliterated opponents by over 20 points per 100 possessions in that timespan.

3. Brooklyn Nets (36-17)

Previous Rank: 2

James Harden was injured and Kyrie Irving was ejected, sure, but losing to a depleted Lakers team was probably not on coach Steve Nash’s to-do list.

At this point in the season, Brooklyn is just focused on staying healthy and building chemistry. Kevin Durant has looked pretty damn good since returning from a hamstring injury, despite his eight turnovers against the Lakers.

A key question for this squad is who they will trust as the fifth starter outside of the Big Three and Joe Harris?

4. Los Angeles Clippers (37-18)

Previous Rank: 4

The Clippers have won five in a row, which is the longest win streak currently in the NBA. Paul George is starting to look like his old self again, especially after a thunderous dunk Sunday night, while Rajon Rondo has immediately injected a sense of assuredness into this squad. 

LA is undefeated when Rondo suits up, and he’s been exactly what they've needed. In an admittedly very small 68-minute sample size, when Rondo is on the court, the Clippers have been destroying teams by 41 points per 100 possessions. Even though that’s a completely unsustainable number, the early returns on the Rondo trade have been fantastic.

5. Philadelphia 76ers (34-16)

Previous Rank: 5

The 76ers wiped the floor with the tanking Thunder on Saturday thanks to a ho-hum 27 points, nine rebounds and four blocks from Joel Embiid, who barely broke a sweat against OKC’s inexperienced big-man rotation.

A more pressing concern for Doc Rivers and the 76ers is if Ben Simmons can jump out of his recent offensive slump. Over his past 10 games, Simmons is averaging just 12.1 points on 44% from the field, which is 10 percentage points lower than his season average.

6. Denver Nuggets (34-19)

Previous Rank: 7

Denver has been on a tear since trading for Aaron Gordon, riding a seven-game win streak before losing to Boston on Sunday. In their defense, Jamal Murray was sidelined, but the loss exposed what has become a weakness in Denver: the bench, which shot a collective 6-25 from the field against the Celtics.

Between the crafty Monte Morris and versatile forwards in JaMychal Green and Paul Millsap, it would be reasonable to expect higher quality play from that unit. But over the last 15 games, Denver's bench ranks 27th league-wide in scoring, which simply won't cut it.

7. Milwaukee Bucks (33-20)

Previous Rank: 6

Even without Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks thrashed the poor Magic by 37 points Sunday night.

For a Bucks team that has been roasted for not having any depth, Milwaukee's gotten an awesome season out of Bobby Portis, who has provided plus-shotmaking and scoring all season. Over his past 10 games, Portis is averaging 15 points and 9.5 boards on 50/41/81 shooting splits.

While it remains to be seen if Portis can hold up defensively in the playoffs, his added scoring could be valuable.

8. Los Angeles Lakers (33-20)

Previous Rank: 9

The Lakers had one of their best wins of the season Saturday night when they handily defeated the Brooklyn Nets on primetime. It was the epitome of a team effort, with eight players scoring in double digits.

Their recent imports both had their best games yet, with Andre Drummond notching a 20-11 double-double and Ben McLemore draining five three-pointers off the bench for 17 points.

When the big guns return, Los Angeles will be just as intimidating as ever.

9. Portland Trail Blazers (31-22)

Previous Rank: 8

It’s been a rough week for Portland, having lost three of their last four games while mustering just 98 points against the (admittedly excellent) Miami Heat defense Sunday night.

Sure, Enes Kanter exploded for 24 points and 30 rebounds on Saturday, but Damian Lillard himself has admitted the Blazers have continued to struggle against high-level competition.

On the bright side, Jusuf Nurkic is still clearly working his way back into shape and should provide a new dimension to their team when he’s fully healthy.

10. Dallas Mavericks (29-23)

Previous Rank: 10

Up until losing two of their last three games, the Mavericks have been surging. But two of their losses this week were baaad.

Dallas lost a heartbreaker to the Spurs on Sunday thanks to a DeMar DeRozan dagger, while also dropping a game to the Rockets, which is pretty inexcusable for a team with championship aspirations.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that Jalen Brunson needs to be on the floor more often. His ability to pressure the defense is huge next to Luka Doncic.

11. Miami Heat (28-25)

Previous Rank: 11

Miami is starting to kick things into high gear as they bring all their players back from injury.

Depending on if Victor Oladipo’s knee is structurally intact, the Heat have a vicious, versatile and tough nine-man rotation they can count on. The only issue is, Bam Adebayo is their only consistent big man in the rotation, something the franchise is well aware of. 

Miami invested a first-round pick in the promising rookie Precious Achiuwa, traded for Nemanja Bjelica and signed Dewayne Dedmon off waivers, so it's clear they’re searching for answers.

One lineup they should look into more is a Jimmy Butler, Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro and Oladipo pairing, which could help juice the offense to scary heights.

12. Atlanta Hawks (29-25)

Previous Rank: 13

Even though they were missing lots of their core players, the Hawks took care of business against the Hornets on Sunday, thanks largely to Bogdan Bogdanovic’s 32-point scoring explosion and Clint Capela’s continued excellent play.

Bogdanovic’s outburst in particular is very important for a Hawks team that invested a lot of money in him this offseason. Over his last 10 games, Bogdanovic has averaged 18.1 points, four rebounds and four assists on 53/50/90 splits.

If he can ascend come the postseason, the Hawks could be dangerous.

13. Boston Celtics (28-26)

Previous Rank: 15

The up-and-down Celtics are safely on the upswing after beating a surging Denver Nuggets squad Sunday.

Even after trading for Evan Fournier, the Celtics are perilously thin on supporting cast members, which makes their stars even more important. Jayson Tatum has stepped up to the challenge recently, averaging 28.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and four assists. He’s coming off a volcanic 53-point performance against the Wolves on Friday.

In other Celtics news, Jaylen Brown threw down a serious dunk in Sunday’s action:

14. New York Knicks (27-27)

Previous Rank: 14

We need to put some respect on R.J. Barrett’s name.

After an underwhelming rookie season, Barrett has taken a massive second-year leap and blossomed into one of the Knicks’ best players. He proved that again Sunday night with a clutch corner triple to help put the pesky Raptors to bed.

Over his past 10 games, Barrett is averaging 19 points and 4.9 rebounds on 48% from deep, which is a huge deal considering he shot 32% there his rookie year.

Barrett is just 20, and if he keeps improving at this rate, the Knicks will finally have a star on their hands.

15. Memphis Grizzlies (26-25)

Previous Rank: 17

We mention this every week, but the Grizzlies deserve more respect for putting a gritty, competitive product on the floor despite missing Jaren Jackson Jr. for far longer than anticipated.

It’s been a team effort thanks to a rockstar starting lineup and deep bench, but the unsung hero of their season has been center Jonas Valanciunas, who’s coming off a 34-point, 22-rebound game against the Pacers.

Like all big men, Valanciunas entered the league clueless and struggled to find an on-court identity, but he’s become an extremely efficient, smart and physical player for the Grizz.

16. Charlotte Hornets (27-25)

Previous Rank: 16

The Hornets may have lost Sunday, but they broke social media after Miles Bridges threw down a ridiculous dunk.

And while no one on the Hornets likely cares about style points, they’re still in good shape to at least make a play-in game.

If they can bring back LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward in time for the playoffs, this could be a surprise team out in the East.

A player to watch? Jalen McDaniels, just 23, has transitioned to a starting role and has provided solid play.

17. San Antonio Spurs (25-26)

Previous Rank: 12

San Antonio finally broke out of their concerning slump in exhilarating fashion as DeMar DeRozan drained a tough contested midrange jumper to put the Dallas Mavericks away.

The Spurs have been battered with a brutal schedule that has been jam-packed because of all their postponed games earlier this season. And amid the piling losses, if San Antonio can play their lineup of DeJounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl more often, they should remain competitive since that group has blitzed opponents by over 10 points per 100 possessions this season.

18. Indiana Pacers (25-27)

Previous Rank: 18

Indiana is on a three-game win streak and coming off one of their best wins of the season.

This year has not been kind to the Pacers, who have lost all of their starters to varying injuries over the course of the season. On Sunday against the Grizzlies, though, Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert shined brighter than ever. Brogdon dropped 29 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists while LeVert had 34, his second-highest mark of the season.

The Pacers are squarely in the play-in game and only one game out of eighth place, and two games from jumping all the way to the fifth seed. That’s the East for you right there.

19. Golden State Warriors (25-28)

Previous Rank: 19

Poor James Wiseman is likely out for the season after tearing his meniscus. It’s been an up and (mostly) down season for Wiseman, who has found himself in the center of an organizational identity crisis. There’s a reason why it’s so difficult for a franchise to balance winning and future development, and Wiseman’s Warriors rookie saga has been Exhibit A.

Before his knee injury Saturday, he was starting to get into a groove, averaging 15.5 points and eight rebounds in his past two games.

20. New Orleans Pelicans (24-29)

Previous Rank: 21

Zion Williamson is reaching new efficiency highs seemingly every night.

On Sunday, he dropped 38 points on an astonishing 16-22 from the field. He’s shooting almost 62% on the year and has been virtually unstoppable.

The next step is translating that individual success into more wins since the Pelicans are still five games below .500.

We will probably have to wait at least another year before playoff (or play-in) Zion, but the wait will be worth it.

21. Sacramento Kings (22-31)

Previous Rank: 20

The Kings have been a rollercoaster of a team all season, constantly fluctuating from a blazing fast squad that beats opponents with speed to a unit that can’t defend its shadow and goes on multigame losing streaks until they repeat the cycle all over again.

And while the organization is ahead of the curve — they announced players and all staff will have the option to be paid in Bitcoin — the on-court product is on a six-game skid.

On the bright side, Sacramento may have its long-term center in Richaun Holmes, who has provided rock-solid play all season. The Kings are 9.8 points per possession worse when Holmes rests compared to when he plays, the best mark on the team among rotation players.

22. Chicago Bulls (22-30)

Previous Rank: 22

Nikola Vucevic is a beast, but the Bulls may want a refund on the trade they made when sending out two first-round picks and Wendell Carter Jr. in return for the big man.

Vucevic and LaVine have now played 188 minutes together and been outscored by 11 points per 100 possessions. There are reasons behind those numbers about why they are so bad — such as lack of chemistry, surrounding talent and untimely blowouts —  but the bottom line is the Bulls are still not good enough.

23. Toronto Raptors (21-33)

Previous Rank: 23

The Raptors witnessed Gary Trent Jr.'s 44-point explosion Saturday in a blowout win over the Cavaliers but they clearly had a hangover after such a resounding win. On Sunday, they managed just 96 points in a loss to the Knicks despite Kyle Lowry’s return.

In the meantime, Chris Boucher has continued to play well. He dropped 38 points and 14 rebounds Thursday and has finally been moved to the starting lineup. When Trent Jr. and Boucher have shared the court this season, the Raptors have outscored opponents by a respectable seven points per 100 possessions.

24. Oklahoma City Thunder (20-33)

Previous Rank: 24

After winning a lot of games they probably didn’t want to win earlier this season, the Thunder are now in free fall, having lost six games in a row and nine of their last 10. Darius Bazley finally returned after a lengthy absence to provide more of a jolt, and despite his ghastly nine turnovers, he put up 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists on Saturday against the 76ers. Bazley is still only 20-years-old with one playoff series under his belt. If he can use these next few weeks to expand his offensive skill set, OKC will have a very intriguing player on their hands next season.

25. Washington Wizards (19-33)

Previous Rank: 26

Russell Westbrook is averaging triple-double again this season and nobody is paying attention because his team continues to lose.

While Westbrook can’t control the fact that he’s surrounded by mostly journeymen and raw young players, one young gun to monitor is Rui Hachimura, who is coming off the best month of his career after he averaged 17 points and 6.4 rebounds on 50% shooting in March. He may have occasional tunnel vision and shoot a touch too many mid-range jump shots, but there’s a really good player in there, somewhere. 

26. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-34)

Previous Rank: 25

It’s been the same story for the Cleveland Cavaliers all season, with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland continuing to improve their bucket-getting abilities as the losses pile up.

On Sunday, the Cavs walked out a skeleton crew around Kevin Love and Isaac Okoro. Even Matthew Dellavedova (remember him?) played 34 minutes and tossed 10 dimes.

27. Orlando Magic (17-36)

Previous Rank: 27

The Magic might not win many games the rest of the season after tearing it down, but it’s nice to finally see Mo Bamba getting some playing time. In his limited minutes off the bench, Bamba has shown flashes of the tantalizing player he still could grow into.

In April, he’s averaging 11 points, five rebounds and 1.2 blocks on 46% from deep in just 17 minutes.

There’s still a chance Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr. become the Magic’s frontcourt of the future.

28. Detroit Pistons (16-38)

Previous Rank: 28

The big news for Detroit is Killian Hayes finally returned and has shown some nice glimpses.

In the interim, the Pistons have remained a pretty poor team. Other than Jerami Grant, no one has stood out among the pack of players given opportunities, but Josh Jackson has had some impressive scoring outbursts, most recently his 26-point performance against the Clippers on Sunday night. Detroit took a flier on him this offseason and he’s rewarded them, especially on his (relatively) reasonable $4.8 million contract.

29. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-40)

Previous Rank: 29

Something is brewing in Minnesota. Not only do they have a new owner in Alex Rodriguez, but the on-court product has been rapidly improving.

A big reason behind their improvement is the return of D’Angelo Russell. In his four games since returning, the Wolves are 2-2 and Russell has averaged 23.7 points in just over half a game.

When Russell shares the court with Karl-Anthony Towns and the explosive Anthony Edwards, the Wolves are scoring a blistering 136 points per 100 possessions and outsourcing teams handily.

30. Houston Rockets (14-39)

Previous Rank: 30

Ever since getting their guys back, the Rockets have gone from abysmal to simply bad.

It’s been a pleasure to watch John Wall balling out again, though. Over his past five games, Wall is averaging 17.2 points, 9.8 assists and 2.2 steals.

After a player tears his Achilles, there’s never a guarantee he can return to his past heights, let alone remain an NBA-caliber player. Wall has proven the doubters wrong and should be even better next season. 

Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration